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How to confront your weaknesses to get ahead in your career

By Matt Knight, for CNN
Gaining better understanding of your weaknesses can be the key to career success experts say.
Gaining better understanding of your weaknesses can be the key to career success experts say.
  • If you want to improve your performance at work weaknesses need to be addressed
  • Corporate consultant and author Jim Taylor says don't feel threatened by your weaknesses
  • Self-knowledge is the foundation stone from which all other improvements are built
  • Education
  • Psychology

London, England (CNN) -- Coming clean about your shortcomings at work isn't something that most executives would be keen to confess in a hurry.

But if you are serious about a promotion, or that long overdue pay rise or you simply want to do your job better you need to stare down your weaknesses if you want to move up the career ladder.

That's the view of U.S. corporate consultant and author Jim Taylor who argues spending time on those uncomfortable flaws is more beneficial than simply concentrating on improving your strengths.

"Without the acknowledgement of weaknesses there is no possibility of change," Taylor told CNN.

"To really make big gains you have to improve weaknesses. Don't be threatened by them. Use them as information to improve performance."

Weaknesses, he says, are typically within our control and with some effort we can do something about them. Eradicating them leads to better performance, productivity and profitability.

The "three P's," as Taylor likes to call them, all stem from improving your knowledge about yourself.

As Taylor points out, we're not always the best judge of our own capabilities as we often under or overestimate our weaknesses. Feedback is vital be it from a mentor, close colleague, friend or spouse who are in a position to tell us what we need to hear.

Nevertheless, change is uncomfortable.

"You never know how or what is going to change and that's really unsettling," Taylor said.

"The problem with addressing the mental side of business performance is that you can't see it, measure it or touch it. There's no inventory, no spreadsheet of numbers."

During his 22-year career Taylor has also worked with many of the world's elite athletes including Olympians and PGA golfers helping improve their mental performance. Taylor himself is a former international alpine ski racer and he finds his business clients benefit from the application of a simple sporting metaphor.

"If athletes want to improve their physical performance they do physical testing and they find out where their weaknesses are. They might need to work on agility, or their leg power or endurance and they use that information to design a training program," he told CNN.

"If athletes do a physical test and it shows that their legs could be stronger they don't ignore it and get all threatened by it -- they say: 'I need to train.'"

Taylor stresses to clients that there are no quick fixes.

"I try to create a framework which says change is difficult, but it is possible. Success is difficult, but failure is even more difficult. Change is also boring, tiring and frustrating. But if they want it bad enough they'll stick with it."

If you want to improve your personal performance at work Taylor recommends seven steps to success.


Gaining a better understanding of yourself is the foundation to providing you with the direction to get the most out of your business life.


Find out what drives you. Without the determination and drive to take action in pursuit of your goals all efforts will stop. Motivation ensures that you do everything you can to be totally prepared to achieve your goals.


Believe in yourself. Believe that if you take risks you will be successful. It's a cliche, but think positive thoughts. But rather than saying unrealistic things like "I'm the best," say "I'm going to keep at this. I believe that I can be successful and I'm going to be."


The ability to handle stress and the ability to respond to a crisis is absolutely essential whether you are a sportsman or the head of a company. Stress debilitates performance so maintain a perspective and respond to the physical manifestations of stress by doing something to relax.


There is no such thing as multitasking the way business people think of it. Multitasking suggests doing several things simultaneously, but what people actually are doing is serial tasking -- going from one task to another very quickly. Research shows that it is inefficient, so don't do it.


Being able to manage and master emotion is absolutely essential. Know your baggage. People can react to situations with anger, depression or despair often because of how they were raised Taylor says. If you know how you tend to react in certain situations then you can choose another emotional reaction.


The Ego is essential for success. When I work with companies I want them to be great, meaning very successful in the traditional sense but also good meaning responsible and ethical. A good tip for dealing with ego is to allow the word humility to enter your psyche. There are great business leaders out there who have tremendous humility.